Spring is around the corner… I hope.

While I was chopping ice off the walkway last week, a neighbor out for a stroll stopped to chat. The conversation turned to gardening. “Do you like bulbs?” she asked.  Hailing from the area of Brent and Beckys Bulbs in Ware Neck, VA, naturally I said yes. “Well, they’re planted all over this lawn,” she added. I looked around. I know they’re up and blooming in Virginia but not a one had broken through the ground here.

After she left, I tried to visualize a lawn full of blooms. That is difficult to do. But just trying to visualize tulips made me reflect on our small group that traveled with Brent and Becky to Holland in the spring of 2010 and our visit to the dazzling gardens of Keukenhof near Amsterdam. Oh, how much fun it would be if this lawn lit up with a rainbow of colors like we saw in Holland.

I posted some photos from that 2010 trip while traveling, but being in a bulb mood now, I’m posting a few more pictures today.

I’ll be checking the lawn in New Hampshire every day for signs of emerging bulbs. I’ll post a photo if it looks anything like Keukenhof Gardens.  Hurry up, spring!

A River Runs Through it….

Yesterday, 32 members, family and friends of the Garden Club of Gloucester completed Stage II of a three year commitment to bring “A River of Blooms” to Ware Academy in Gloucester. Last year the club began the project by planting over two thousand bulbs and this year we added another two thousand bulbs from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs located just a stone’s throw from the school.

Temperatures were brisk when the first trucks arrived with compost that was spread 2″ thick over the designated area. Borrowed from Brent and Becky was a metal grid that was pressed into the compost to show squares where single bulbs would be needed. Members were assigned to an area and gently eased the bulbs into the compost. More compost, then a cover of shredded pine bark mulch spread across the top finished the job.

Saint Keverne, Ice Follies, Primeur, Salome, Hillstar daffodils will continue the river of February Gold, Geranium, Pink Charm, Ice Follies, and Tripartite planted last year. We expect all to be in bloom when we invite the public to the Garden Club of Virginia’s 78th Annual Daffodil Show at Ware Academy in Gloucester on Thursday and Friday, March 29-30. We hope many will plan to stop by the show and be a witness to a room full of daffodils… all shapes, colors and sizes. Brent and Becky will also have a  display of the best of the best daffodils from their gardens. Awe and amazement are guaranteed.

Ware Academy is located on John Clayton Memorial Highway conveniently located between Gloucester Courthouse and Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall

I’m always amazed at how quickly the days seem to grow shorter at this time of year. We have been losing daylight each day since June and now up to about three minutes a day. Can’t help but notice it’s really dark when we awake and dusk comes noticeably earlier.  Fall seems to have arrived at our neck of the woods. Color is beginning to appear in leaves, stalks of corn stand brown and dry in the fields, pots of mums adorn doorsteps, morning dew lies heavy on the grass and all but six female hummingbirds have begun their southward migration.  From this day forth until the Winter Solstice in December, days grow shorter and temperatures begin to drop.

Tomorrow, Sept. 23, marks the traditional first day of fall with the arrival of the Autumn Equinox in our northern hemisphere. This is the day when the sun crosses the equator southward and the length of daylight and night are fairly close to being equal.  At the North Pole, this marks the arrival of six month of darkness and at the South Pole, the sun will reappear after six month of darkness.

The sun will rise over the horizon at different times for different observers depending on location but I’m walking to the end of the pier around 5:00 a.m. EDT to catch the sun’s first rays at 5:05 a.m. as they bend over the horizon. I will reflect on the end of a growing season and give silent thanks for success in all the garden, both edible and ornamental.  Of course, thoughts must turn toward those trees on clearance at the nursery and the purchase of some glorious daffodil bulbs I’ve admired at Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.

The equinox is also the day for a little fun. Because of equal gravitational force, it’s thought one can be successful at balancing an egg on end. You can certainly try, however, scientists say that gravity is not noticeably affected by the equinox. Therefore balancing an egg in the morning will be just as tedious as any other day of the year. Rats!  I’ve participated in this tradition since I was age 10, so I’ll certainly have my eggs lined up tomorrow.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester


It’s Not Too Late for Fall Bulbs…

James Johnson, Gloucester County Buildings and Grounds

According to Brent Heath of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Gloucester, it’s not too late to plant our leftover fall bulbs in our area. Matter of fact he told me he spent one entire day last weekend getting the last of his bulbs planted in his garden. As long as the bulbs are properly prepared, he said, it’s fine to plant them now. The blooms will try their best to bloom, maybe late the first year, but should be on schedule for the following year.

When he said bulbs need to be properly prepared, he meant that spring blooming bulbs need a period of dormancy in the cold in order to bloom in the spring.  When you plant your bulbs in the fall, Mother Nature provides the chilling for you but you have not kept your bulbs cold, you can chill them in the refrigerator for several weeks to replicate winter conditions. But never store the bulbs in the refrigerator with apples or pears, fruits that emit ethylene gases. This would adversely affect the flowering in the spring.

James carefully tends to the Katie Heath Garden

Confirmation that bulbs can be planted now was evidenced in Gloucester Courthouse this morning as I took my morning walk. Gloucester County employees were busy at work getting crates of tulips in the ground. These are a fraction of the bulbs that Brent and Becky donate each year for their community. James Johnson was busy adding hundreds of the lovely cultivar tulip, Menton, to the borders and gardens in the Courthouse area. The garden he was concentrating on this morning was begun years ago by Brent Heath to honor his mother, so James makes sure he takes the extra time to make this border one that would make Brent proud. He said the bulbs are “crying to be in the ground” and he was making that happen.

Eric pauses from planting bulbs

In borders like the one James was working on, mulch and compost were carefully pulled aside and the bulbs scattered over the ground, pointed end up. The mulch/compost was replaced and new shredded mulch was waiting to be raked over top. In other borders, holes were drilled with equipment and the bulbs were dropped into the holes, covered loosely, then topped with a nice layer of mulch. County employee, Eric takes great pride in the gardens and expressed much appreciation for Brent and Becky’s generosity. Because of them, Gloucester is known for her daffodils.

What fun it always is to stop and chat with fellow gardeners. Even though we may not know one another, gardening is a shared interest that facilitates friendship. Gardening is a universal language. Have you ever met a gardener who didn’t want to share their garden? I have not.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Bulbs are FINALLY in the ground…

After returning from a trip to Keukenhof Gardens in Holland with Brent and Becky last May, I dreamed about seeing colorful tulips in my own gardens in 2011. Breathtaking would be an understatement to describe the Keukenhof rivers of tulips planted en masse of single colors that paralleled, twisted and merged like brilliant rainbows that had fallen to the earth.  Endless paths throughout the 80-acres of woodland park with endless variety and patterns of 7,000,000 hand planted bulbs was more than eye candy. It bedazzled.  A profusion of muscari in shades of blue coiled around and about the tulips completed the colors of the rainbow.

So I also wanted muscari… lots of muscari in shades of blues and whites and lavender planted for accent color. I wanted it around birdbaths, against the tulips, and accenting the stones around the frog pond. From Brent & Becky’s Bulbs last fall, I purchased cobalt blue muscari armeniacum and several other varieties that I had admired in Holland. And last week in a lull between snow days and icy days, I finally got the bulbs planted. It’s late in the season so I’ll let you know if they appear above ground this spring.

After muscari I planted a mass of tulip bulbs in several borders.  I massed single colors and twisted them into other colors, similar to Keukenhof’s style of planting but on a MUCH smaller scale. I have great hopes that springtime views will be gorgeous on the river in Ware Neck.  Here are some of my selections:

Come-Back

Hakuun

Most of the tulips I bought were Darwin hybrid tulips from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.  This deep red “Come-Back,” thus named because it is a reliable perennial, is a mid-spring bloomer that grows to 16″-18.” It’s great for cut flowers.

I could not pass up this Darwin hybrid “Hakuun,” pure white with a hint of green on the sepals. It hails from Japan and grows to 16″-18″ tall.

Elegant Lady

I took a chance with a few of the selections because I just could not resist them. Take a look at “Elegant Lady,” the ‘color of butter cream frosting with a pale pink overlay,’ says the wording under the picture. How could I resist such a delicious bloom even if it only blooms one season?

Daydream

Then I planted a river of “Daydream” Darwin hybrids that open yellow and mature to a soft apricot orange. I’m thinking sherbet when I see these 18″-20″ blooms in the catalog. And this tulip possesses a mildly fragrant aroma.

Marit

“Marit,” a Darwin hybrid described as ‘a glowing blend of cherry red and primrose yellow with a bit of chartreuse’ was another irresistible tulip. A mid-spring bloomer, it grows 14″-18″ tall.

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  • The Darwin hybrid tulip bulbs should be planted about 8″-10″ deep. This prevents the bulb from splitting up into new bulbs that are non-flowering and helps the flower to have thicker stems.
  • Remove the flower as soon as it is spent to allow energy to go into the bulb rather than seed production.
  • A low-nitrogen organic fertilizer in the spring is advised.
  • Allow the foliage to completely wither away before you remove it.
  • Avoid irrigating tulips. They like it dry.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Keukenhof Gardens

It was cold, blustery and rainy when we visited the Keukenhof Gardens near Amsterdam but we were quite warmed by the breathtaking colors in the bulbs, the shrubs and perennials in the over 80-acre garden.  Open only from March to May, the garden receives approximately 800,000 visitors from all over the world during these few short weeks. Approximately 7,000,000 bulbs have been planted by hand each year since 1949 by growers all over the Netherlands to exhibit their hybrids.

We spent the entire day here with Brent and Becky exploring the ten miles of paths and seven inspirational gardens, indoor exhibits, art exhibits, gift shops, flower arrangements, lakes, fountains and so much more. Despite inclement weather, the garden was quite crowded.  We saw people of all ages braving cold temperatures and drenching rain from babes in strollers to the elderly.  We shared their enthusiasm.

Click to enlarge photos.

The Netherlands

Today I am tiptoeing through the tulips in and around the historic village of Alkmaar, the Netherlands with Brent and Becky Heath of daffodil fame and with members of the Garden Club of Gloucester and friends. The brilliant fields of bulbs were visible from the air when landing in Amsterdam, then through the windows of our bus as we

muscari fields

traversed villages to Alkmaar about 50 miles north. The Heaths are well-known in this area and have used the grounds around here for raising and developing varieties of bulbs.  We are learning first hand knowledge of the manic tulip culture of 17th century Europe, the bloom that dominated culture for generations.

As we travel over the next few days, I will attempt to share photographs of beautiful gardens… although internet access is not readily available.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

All I Want for Christmas….

Dear Santa, Honestly, I’ve been pretty good this year… err…except for that one time, but I hope you still have me on your Nice List.  I don’t need diamonds or pearls or designer purses this year but I have a Christmas Wish List that I hope isn’t too hefty.  It’s just a Wish List which means I don’t all have to receive all of these goodies.  One or two of these things would make me smile.

1. Gloves. I’m really, really hard on garden gloves.  In one season, I either wear a hole in a pair or I am missing the mate (the dogs?). I like those gloves best with fabric backs and rubber on the palms.  I promise to be better about not leaving them on a bench, tree limb or on the ground for the dogs to find.

2. Bulbs: Gosh, you don’t have to go far, Santa. Brent & Becky’s Bulbs are just down the road and they’re having a 50% off sale on bulbs for indoor forcing.  I’ve already planted my outdoor bulbs this year but it would be fun to have a few blooms inside this winter.  You’d better be quick though.They’re only on sale until December 21.

3. Fine Gardening Magazine: Santa, real gardeners, just like I aspire to be, get to the meat of gardening in this bimonthly journal.  Even the ads are worth reading! The English Garden is another magazine that I would pore over and read again and again and again.

4. Gardening Book: It would be fun to curl up this winter with a hot cup of tea and Ken Druse’s Planthropology. Or how about Piet Oudolf’s Designing With Plants?

5. Black and Decker cordless  18 volt leaf blower:  This lightweight rechargeable leaf blower is just the ticket for me to clean the hard surfaces around the home.  All I need is 15 minutes and I’m done.  No gasoline. No extension cord.

6. Troy-Bilt 20 volt lithium-ion battery trimmer: All my edging dreams would come true with a battery that holds a charge for one hour. The time I would save over hand edging would allow me to develop another bed.  My long-term goal: all beds, no grass.

7. For a Christmas surprise (and birthdays and anniversaries), I would love to find a truckload of compost from the facility in Yorktown!

8. Drip Irrigation: It’s hard to think about water right now with our saturated soil but the droughts will someday return and I want to be ready.

Well, that about does it for this gardener.  I’d sure like to know what other gardeners have on their Wish List for Christmas.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester